JUDGES CHAPTER ONE
In this chapter we will be looking at the cooperation between Judah and Simeon. (1-4)
We will learn more Adoni-bezek and why they amputated his right thumbs and right toe nails. (5-7)
Jerusalem and Hebron are conquered. (8-12)
The Kenites (in laws of Moses)join Judah. (16)
Hormah, Gaza, Askelon and Ekron taken. (17)
From verse 21 onward we learn about Benjamin and the house of Joseph who took Beth-el. We learn of
Zebulun, Asher, Naphtali and Dan.
Verse 1 After the death of Joshua, the Israelites asked the LORD, “Who of us is to go up first to fight against the Canaanites?”
The first five words forms the heading for the entire book.
With these words the author takes up the narrative where the book of Joshua left it. And guess what?
Joshua begins in exactly the same way: “Now after the death of Moses the servant of the Lord it came to pass” (Joshua 1:1).
The events and incidents that the author of Judges will relate belong to the period or epoch after the death of Joshua.
Precisely how long after Joshua’s death the first of these events occurred, cannot be determined; but it was probably not long, for the book of Judges opens with an account of the dispersion of the tribes to their respective inheritances after Joshua allotted a portion to each one of them.
Children of Israel. Presumably only the tribes west of the Jordan.
Asked the Lord. The Hebrew word here translated “asked” is frequently also rendered “to inquire of,” or “to ask counsel of” (18:5; 20:18).
The word is used for the priest’s inquiry of Urim and Thummim (Num. 27:21), which was possibly the method employed here.
It is noteworthy that the Israelites did ask counsel of the Lord. While Joshua was alive they had leaned on him. Now, left leaderless and confronted with danger, they did not rely on their own wisdom, but in harmony with the instruction of Moses, they asked God to direct them (see James 1:5).
Theirs was a simple and direct request, devoid of “vain repetitions” (Matt. 6:7). The eloquence of prayer is in its sense of need and its directness.
It is as imperative in the 20th century as in the days of the judges that God’s people seek divine guidance before making vital decisions.
This seeking must not be done hurriedly, carelessly, or with the mind made up and the decision already reached beforehand.
Such prayer for guidance is mockery. God honors only those who come to Him sincerely and with an open mind—those who are willing to follow in the path He marks out.
Go up. These words suggest that the tribes were encamped in the low plains around Jericho and Gilgal. This is borne out by the later narrative (1:16; 2:1).
The two cities were 800 feet below sea level, but some of the places the Israelites were to attack were 2,500 to 3,600 feet. above sea level.
The Hebrew ‘alah, here translated, “go up,” is also often used to express the thought “to go forth to battle.” The idea of “go up” in connection with battle may have originated in the fact that the defense usually occupied the high ground.
First. The question, “Who shall go up … first?” reveals the uncertainty of the group who now had no one person to look to as leader.
They recognized that each tribe must launch out on its own to secure the portion of the land granted them by the lot. But which tribe was it that should make the needed progress to give courage to the others? They wanted a divinely appointed leader for the campaign.
Verse 2 The LORD answered, “Judah shall go up; I have given the land into their hands.”
2. Judah shall go up. This answer, we would presume, came to them through Phinehas, the high priest, who may have inquired by Urim and Thummim.
The men of Judah were to take the lead perhaps because they were the most numerous tribe (Number 2); they may also have been the most courageous, for they had in their number Caleb, who alone, with Joshua, of all the ten spies wanted to press ahead to invade the land many years before.
In the desert wanderings Judah had always marched first. Now they were chosen to open the campaign.
I have given the land into their hands.
This is a prophetic statement. That which is sure to happen is expressed as if it were already accomplished. “The land” here means Judah’s lot.
Verse 3 The men of Judah then said to the Simeonites their fellow Israelites, “Come up with us into the territory allotted to us, to fight against the Canaanites. We in turn will go with you into yours.” So the Simeonites went with them.
Come up with us. Both Judah and Simeon were sons of Leah (Gen. 29:33, 35).
It was natural that the two tribes should help each other, for their lots were contiguous; indeed, the lot of Simeon is said to lie “within the inheritance of the children of Judah” (Joshua 19:1).
The portion of the two tribes fell roughly within two lines drawn to the Mediterranean from the northern and southern extremities of the Dead Sea.
Although the federation of southern Canaanites had been defeated during the campaigns of Joshua, there remained many strongholds that the individual tribes needed to conquer.
Cooperation between brethren is the wisest course when there are difficult tasks to do. The strongest should not despise but desire the assistance of others, even of those who may be weaker.
Judah was the largest and Simeon the smallest of the tribes, yet Judah asked Simeon’s aid. We should also note that those who ask assistance must be ready to give it in return, just as Judah in this instance offered to help Simeon later.
Christians should strengthen one another’s hands against the destructive devices of Satan’s kingdom. Those who thus help one another in the spirit of love have reason to hope that God will graciously bless their combined efforts.
Verse 4 When Judah attacked, the LORD gave the Canaanites and Perizzites into their hands, and they struck down ten thousand men at Bezek
Bezek. This place has not been located. It seems to have been near Jerusalem, for immediately after this battle the Israelites attacked that city.
Some have thought that it may have been the name of a territory and not of a city, and have suggested the region between Jericho and Jerusalem as its location.
There is a town named Bezek, mentioned in 1 Sam. 11:8, but this is probably a different place, for it is northeast of Shechem and lies outside the region of a southern campaign such as Judah was conducting.
However, the Perizzites are included as participants in this battle, and are usually mentioned in connection with the wooded highlands north and east of Shechem (Joshua 17:15).
The name Perizzite comes from a word meaning “open country,” and might be considered an equivalent of our modern word Bedouin, which means “a nomadic tribesman.”
Verse 5 It was there that they found Adoni-Bezek and fought against him, putting to rout the Canaanites and Perizzites.
Adoni-bezek. Literally, “lord of Bezek,” that is, the ruler of Bezek.
Verse 6 Adoni-Bezek fled, but they chased him and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and big toes.
Cut off his thumbs. Anciently hostilities were marked by barbarities such as this to prevent captured prisoners from again engaging in warfare.
The Greeks are reported at times to have mutilated the hands of prisoners just enough so that they could not throw a spear or handle a bow but could still work.
The punishment inflicted upon Adoni-bezek would deprive him of his kingship. The great toes were cut off to hinder the ability to run, which was an essential qualification for warriors of that time.
Verse 7 Then Adoni-Bezek said, “Seventy kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off have picked up scraps under my table. Now God has paid me back for what I did to them.” They brought him to Jerusalem, and he died there.
Seventy kings. The various royal personages that at different times during Adoni-bezek’s reign constituted the retinue of subjugated rulers that he supported miserably in his court after having mutilated them.
The kingdoms of Palestine were small, often consisting of only a city and the territory around it.
Picked up scraps. A better translation would be “gleaned,” or, “picked up crumbs.”
As I have done. Adoni-bezek testified that he deserved the punishment that was meted out to him.
Like many others since his time, he read his crime in his punishment.
Although God does not always immediately requite men according to their deserts, but defers long, hoping for repentance, eventually all will be constrained to admit their guilt before His judgment bar.
How much better it is to plead guilty before the mercy seat now, and thus be delivered from the wrath to come
Jerusalem. There is no suggestion that the tribes endeavored to maintain their hold on the city at this time. In fact, the Bible record shows that the city continued in the hands of the Jebusites until captured by David several hundred years later (2 Sam. 5:6, 7).
Not until the reign of David did Judah actually dominate southern Palestine. Inasmuch as Jerusalem was not situated within the lot of Judah or Simeon, these tribes probably abandoned the city after they had captured and burned it.
He died there. The author does not say how long Adoni-bezek lived after being brought to Jerusalem. Presumably his death occurred soon after.
Verse 9 And afterward the children of Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites who dwelt in the mountains, in the South, and in the lowland.
Went down. In the first part of the campaign they “went up” to battle from the lowland around Jericho and Gilgal into the central highlands. Now, from the hills they “went down” to fight in the three distinctive regions of southern Palestine, the “mountain,” the “south” (Negeb), and “valley” (Shephelah).
The mountain. This term is used in the Old Testament for the highlands of Judea, which are a continuation of the central mountain chain that runs throughout the length of the country from north to south.
The south. Heb. negeb. South of Hebron the mountains slope downward and become less rugged, the valleys less deep, and the hills round off and gradually merge with the southern desert.
This arid, sparsely settled region extends from north of Beersheba southward to Kadesh-barnea and westward toward the sea.
It was often termed negeb in the Hebrew Old Testament name that it still bears today. The word itself means a dry, arid land.
So familiar was this region of southern Canaan to the Hebrews that they came to use the word negeb as a general expression for “south” (Gen. 24:62; Joshua 15:4, 21; Eze. 47:19). In this verse the word, however, stands for the geographical area described previously.
Hebrew shephelah. Between the highlands of Judah and the Philistine plain that borders the sea there is a region of low, rounded hills a few hundred feet in elevation. This fringe of foothills on the border of Philistia was called the Shephelah, that is, the lowland.
Verse 10 Then Judah went against the Canaanites who dwelt in Hebron. (Now the name of Hebron was formerly Kirjath Arba.) And they killed Sheshai, Ahiman, and Talmai.
Hebron. This city was about halfway between Jerusalem and Beersheba, 20 miles from either city, in the highest part of the mountains of Judah, 3,040 feet above sea level.
The earlier name of the city was Kirjath-arba, which means “city of Arba.” Arba was the father of Anak (Joshua 15:13; 21:11; 14:15). Hebron was the burial place of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, and Leah.
The author, in this verse, is evidently making a general statement or survey concerning the capture of Hebron, for later in the chapter he states that Caleb captured Hebron and slew the three sons of Anak (20).
Sheshai. The three giants listed are also mentioned in connection with Caleb’s visit to the city years before in company with the ten spies (Num. 13:22, 28). In Judges 1:20 they are called the sons of Anak, which may mean that they were three clans of the Anakim.
Verse 11 From there they went against the inhabitants of Debir. (The name of Debir was formerly Kirjath Sepher.)
Debir. The former name of Debir was Kirjath-sepher (Joshua 15:15), which means “city of books.”
Because of this meaning scholars have speculated that the city housed a famous library similar to the royal libraries that the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal built up to magnificent proportions.
Most scholars agree that the city may be correctly identified as the present Tell Beit Mirsim, excavated by Dr. W. F. Albright.
The ruins revealed no library, although the city was not completely excavated. The archeological evidence shows an unusually devastating conflagration, followed by a settlement of Hebrew people who rebuilt the city.
Verse 12 Then Caleb said, “Whoever attacks Kirjath Sepher and takes it, to him I will give my daughter Achsah as wife.
I will give. The city was evidently stubbornly defended, and Caleb endeavored to rouse the ambitious young men among the different clans of the tribe to greater valor by offering his daughter in marriage to the one whose group broke into the city first.
From what follows, it appears that the captured city also became the territory of the fortunate victor. This story gives some evidence of the strength of the southern cities in these mountains.
Earlier, when Joshua was assigning sections of the land to the tribes, Caleb referred to his unbroken strength, and accordingly gained permission to win the region by the sword (Joshua 14:11).
Verse 13 And Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, took it; so he gave him his daughter Achsah as wife.
Caleb’s younger brother. Grammatically, these words may refer to Kenaz or to Othniel. If they refer to Kenaz, then Othniel was the nephew, not the brother, of Caleb.
It is impossible to tell which is correct. The writer specifically uses the word “younger” in order to explain that there was no great disparity in age between Othniel and Achsah.
If affection for a woman animates men to such strenuous efforts and perilous adventures, what should love for the Lord lead them to hazard for Him?
Verse 14 Now it happened, when she came to him, that she urged him to ask her father for a field. And she dismounted from her donkey, and Caleb said to her, “What do you wish?”
When she came. Achsah had no doubt been kept far behind the battle area with the other women and children in a place of safety, but now she was doubtless bidden by her father to come and be publicly presented to her husband in honor of his valor and as an example to the troops.
In those times parents arranged the marriages and gave their daughters to whomever they wished. However, unless the custom was abused, a maiden was not required to marry someone she could not love (Gen. 24:57, 58; PP 171).
She urged him to ask. Verse 15 records that Achsah was the one who asked her father for a field. She requested permission from her husband to ask her father for a field or persuaded him that they should ask.
Dismounted from. Achsah reverenced her father, and so dismounted when speaking to him. Among the Bedouins of today custom still demands that one asking a favor of a sheik must dismount and approach him on foot.
Verse 15 And she said unto him, Give me a blessing: for thou hast given me a south land; give me also springs of water. And Caleb gave her the upper springs and the nether springs.
South land. Perhaps, better, “arid land.” The Hebrew word for “south” is negeb, a dry, arid land (see on v. 9).
Her section was in the dry Negeb, so she was in need of springs for the flocks. Her new husband did not feel disposed to ask for these springs, but, feeling secure as a favored daughter, Achsah made her request immediately as the young couple were about to take over their territory.
In response to her petition Caleb gave her the “upper springs and the nether springs.” In the territory between Debir and Hebron there is a region today containing about 14 springs in 3 groups. These may be the ones from which Caleb gave two groups to his newly married daughter.
Apparently Achsah’s request was fit and proper, and Caleb, recognizing it as such, granted it.
Our heavenly Father, who apportions our lot, is surely as reasonable and affectionate as any earthly parent.
It is for us to exercise the same wisdom as Achsah, and request that God give us such betterment to our portion in life as is fit and proper.
God is willing to give us springs of water to moisten a sun-parched experience. He will bestow upon us exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, if we call upon Him (Eph. 3:20).
Verse 16 Now the children of the Kenite, Moses’ father-in-law, went up from the City of Palms with the children of Judah into the Wilderness of Judah, which lies in the South near Arad; and they went and dwelt among the people.
The Kenite. Or, “the Midianite” (Num. 10:29). From Moses’ time onward the clan was closely allied with Israel without losing its independent and separate existence.
Because they were in alliance with Israel and joined with them in the campaign, they were allowed to share in the rewards and settle in the territory of Judah. Later one branch of their clan settled far to the north in the territory of Naphtali (4:11, 17).
City of palm trees. Jericho is commonly referred to as the “city of palm trees” (Deut. 34:3; 2 Chron. 28:15). But old Jericho had been destroyed and new Jericho had not yet been built (1 Kings 16:34).
It is therefore probable that this “city of palm trees” was another city in the same general vicinity (see on Joshua 6:26). The place was once famous for its palms and gardens. Josephus gives a glowing description of its beauty (Wars iv. 8. 3).
Arad. This place, where the Kenites settled, is in the Negeb about 17 miles (27 kilometers)south by east of Hebron.
Verse 17 And Judah went with his brother Simeon, and they attacked the Canaanites who inhabited Zephath, and utterly destroyed it. So the name of the city was called Hormah.
Hormah. Signifying “devoted,” that is, devoted to utter destruction. This is the new name that the Hebrews gave to Zephath.
As yet the site of the city has not been definitely determined by archaeologists. However, Tell esh–Sheri‘ah (also called Tell el–Mshāsh), near Beersheba and Ziklag, has been suggested.
Hormah was in the territory of Simeon (Joshua 19:4), which accords with the statement of this verse.
Verse 18 Also Judah took Gaza with its territory, Ashkelon with its territory, and Ekron with its territory.
Judah took Gaza. It seems that the tribe of Judah now carried on the campaign alone. They swung from the Negeb over to the maritime plain and headed north, attacking the coastal cities.
The southernmost of these was Gaza, which they captured by storm, along with Askelon and Ekron. Thus three centers of the Philistine confederacy fell before the Israelites.
However, it seems that the Hebrews overthrew these strongholds by swift, surprise attacks, but were not able to hold them after the Philistines regrouped and counter-attacked, for the next verse states that Judah could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley (see also 3:3).
Verse 19 So the LORD was with Judah. And they drove out the mountaineers, but they could not drive out the inhabitants of the lowland, because they had chariots of iron.
With Judah. Judah was able to succeed only partially because of a seeming superiority in the weapons of the enemy.
Why was this when chariots of iron are nothing before the might of God, whose chariots are ten thousands of angels?
Infinite power was available, yet the tribe of Judah was not able to gain complete mastery over its enemies. The author of the book of Judges later explains why (see 2:14–23).
Chariots of iron. On the mountains where horses and chariots could not maneuver, the mobile, daring bands of Hebrews were victorious; but in the broad valleys of the maritime plain the better armed Canaanites were able to repel their incursions.
The use of iron was just becoming common among the Canaanites, who were ahead of the nomadic Hebrews in the art of metal working.
They had recently learned the use of chariots and horses from the Hittites and Hurrians, and employed them to good advantage against the foot soldiers of the Hebrews, who were unable to cope with this superior weapon.
21. Inhabited Jerusalem. According to v. 8 the tribe of Judah had already taken Jerusalem. Perhaps the reason they did not consolidate their gains there was that the city really lay in the territory of Benjamin. The boundary line between two tribes ran just south of the city through the Valley of Hinnon (Joshua 15:8). After the Jebusites had been humbled by their defeat at the hands of Judah, they offered no resistance to the men of Benjamin who settled around the city. Lacking the necessary resolution to capture the city, the people of Benjamin mingled together peaceably with the heathen Jebusites. Several hundred years later David, sensing the importance of having the citadel in his hands, assaulted and captured it. Even after this the two groups seemed to live together amicably in the area, for the late in David’s reign, Araunah the Jebusite was spoken of in a way that suggests he was a respected citizen; he certainly conducted himself as one (2 Sam. 24:18). However, during the judges period the city was predominantly Jebusite (Judges 19:11, 12). The people of Benjamin failed to take full advantage of their opportunities.
Unto this day. This expression suggests that the book of Judges was written before David’s capture of the city.
22. House of Joseph. The tribe of Ephraim and the half tribe of Manasseh in western Palestine. Half of the tribe of Manasseh had settled in Transjordan.
Beth-el. Signifying, “house of God.” Situated about 10 1/4 mi. (16.4 km.) north of Jerusalem in the central mountains. This city was celebrated as the place where Jacob had seen his vision of the ladder, from which event it had received its name (Gen. 28:10–22). Later, it was to be famous as a seat of the idolatrous worship established by Jeroboam, who made it one of the national shrines of the northern kingdom of Israel (see 1 Kings 12:29).
Lord was with them. Unlike Benjamin, who never ventured out in faith, these tribes launched out and won victories through God’s blessing.
23. Sent to descry Beth-el. That is, they reconnoitered thoroughly before venturing an attack, to find the best way to conquer it. A historical note is added that the former name of the city was Luz. After conquering the town the Hebrews renamed it Bethel in honor of the experience of Jacob there (see on v. 22). The new town evidently was not on the same spot as the old, for in the book of Joshua the two cities are described as different, though adjoining, places (Joshua 16:2). The town was originally in the territory of Benjamin but in close proximity to the border of Ephraim (Joshua 18:13, 21, 22).
24. Spies. Literally, “watchers.” Before taking advantage of the terror that gripped the captured man’s soul in anticipation of being put to death, the watchers made the traveler an offer of personal safety. Because of his betrayal of a secret entrance to the city, the Hebrews easily captured the place and put its inhabitants to the sword, saving alive only this man and his family.
26. Built a city. Nothing is known of the city that this man founded. Perhaps to quiet his conscience for his deed of betrayal, he went into a far country and built a city that he renamed after the one he had betrayed.
27. Neither did Manasseh. The author advances in his narrative from the southern section of the land, assaulted by Judah, upward to central and northern Palestine. At this point the narrative reveals a new trend. Previously the Hebrews had gained victories as well as suffered defeats. Now there simply follows a list of Canaanite strongholds that the different tribes were unable to capture. The towns whose inhabitants Manasseh was unable to expel, consisted of a chain of fortified cities guarding all the passes.
Beth-shean. At the eastern end of this “Canaanite line” was the ancient city of Beth-shan. It was at the place where the rather level country at the end of the Valley of Jezreel began to fall off toward the Jordan River. It is one of the oldest cities of Palestine, and at various times was the center for the worship of numerous heathen deities. It was an extremely strong fortress situated on a high hill built up by the ruins of previous eras. Because of its strategic location it commanded the roads to Damascus. Excavations at the site reveal that it was an Egyptian garrison city for several centuries, to about the 12th century b.c. In the days of Saul it was in the possession of the Philistines, whose main centers lay far to the south. Later David may have captured it, for it is mentioned as one of Solomon’s cities (1 Kings 4:12). For a long time it was known as Scythopolis, after the Scythians who captured it about the time of Jeremiah. Today it is called Tell el Ḥuṣn. The neighboring Arab town of Beisān perpetuates the ancient name.
The other fortified cities named in this verse commanded the passes leading from the central mountains of Samaria into the fertile plain of Esdraelon (or Megiddo). Megiddo, on the western end of the line, commanded the great highway between Egypt and Mesopotamia. Because of this it figured prominently in Egyptian campaigns against the great northern and eastern empires. Taanach, which bears the same name today, was 4 3/4 mi. (7.6 km.) southeast of Megiddo.
Her towns. Literally, “her daughters,” the small villages clustered around these fortress cities.
Canaanites would dwell. That is, they stubbornly resisted and repelled the attempts of the Hebrews to dislodge them. They realized correctly that if they could hold this chain of fortresses, they could command all the main routes of travel and commerce, and in addition, could separate the different tribes from one another and thus prevent a united confederation of the Hebrews. They applied the military rule of divide and conquer.
28. Tribute. Heb. mas. “Tribute” does not represent the true idea of this Hebrew word, which means “labor gangs.” The word signifies a levy of men impressed for taskwork, not the taskwork itself. Both David and Solomon used compulsory labor levies in their building projects and in the work of fortifying cities (1 Kings 5:13; 9:15, 21). At this time the Hebrews, in the areas in which they were dominant, forced the defeated Canaanites to work in rebuilding the captured cities and strengthening fortifications.
Not utterly drive. That is, even in the regions where the Hebrews were strong, a large number of Canaanites who submitted to forced labor for the privilege of living in their villages or on their farms were permitted to remain. The danger of this to Israelite religion and morals is apparent in the later history of this book.
29. Gezer. An ancient Canaanite city on the southwestern border of Ephraim near the Philistine country, 19 1/4 mi. (30.8 km.) northwest of Jerusalem. The Canaanites retained possession of the city (1 Sam. 27:8; 2 Sam. 5:25; 1 Chron. 20:4) until a certain Pharaoh captured it and gave it as a present to his daughter, Solomon’s wife (1 Kings 9:16). Solomon then rebuilt it as a border fortress. The excavation of this city has revealed a vast amount of Canaanite household articles, an extensive Canaanite temple, and numerous examples of the Canaanite practice of burying infants in the foundations of houses that were being built.
30. Neither did Zebulun. The author now begins to relate the experiences of the tribes whose portions were situated in northern Palestine beyond the plain of Esdraelon. Nothing is said of the tribe of Isaachar, although in the song of Deborah (ch. 5) it is represented as one of the more aggressive tribes. The story with respect to each of these tribes as given here is about the same. They were not strong enough to attack the fortresses in their allotted territories. Even in the mountains they were unable to gain the mastery as the tribes farther to the south had done. They merely whittled out little sections here and there wherever they could, and thus wedged themselves in among the older settlements.
31. Neither did Asher. The tribe of Asher was no more successful than Zebulun. Its allotment consisted of the maritime plain and the low hills north of Carmel. It was the territory of the Phoenicians, who had not yet risen to fame as sea traders. Having settled down among the Canaanites there, the people of Asher seem to have been exposed to cultural and religious absorption perhaps more than any other tribe. Within a short time they seemed to have lost much of their religious separateness, so that when Deborah called on the tribes to join in a united front against the Canaanites, “Asher,” she says, “continued on the sea shore, and abode in his breaches” (ch. 5:17).
Joshua 19:30 states that 22 towns in this region fell to the lot of Asher. The text before us lists at least seven of them that were not taken, including the well-known cities of Acre and Sidon. Thus it is evident that the Asherites did not make much progress toward conquering the territory assigned to them.
32. Dwelt among the Canaanites. Verses 29 and 30 stated that the Canaanites dwelt among the Hebrews, showing that the latter were the more powerful; but here the author changes his phrase and says that the Asherites dwelt among the Canaanites. This seems to indicate that the Canaanites were the dominant power in that area.
33. Neither did Naphtali. The same unhappy narrative is repeated. The places that Naphtali failed to conquer were ancient cities that took their name from the famous temples to the goddess Anath and the sun-god Shamash situated therein. The Hebrews were strong enough, however, to force these cities to tribute. The territory of Naphtali later became known as Galilee, where the heathen element was so numerous that the region was called “Galilee of the nations” (Isa. 9:1), that is, “the foreign district.”
34. Children of Dan. The lot of the tribe of Dan was a narrow strip of valley and low hills between the inheritance of Ephraim and Judah. The Danites tried at first to push toward the lowlands, and, under the blessing of God, should have extended their boundaries to the sea. Instead, the native inhabitants drove them back into the hills where they consolidated their position around the towns of Zorah and Eshtaol. It was from this tribe and this district that Samson sallied forth on his exploits against the Philistines (chs. 13 to 16). However, this region was so small that when the tribe grew in population, the main body migrated to the northern part of Palestine around the headwaters of the Jordan, where they captured the city of Laish and renamed it Dan (Judges 18 and 19; see on Joshua 19:47).
it should be noticed that the author of the book here designates the native population as Amorites instead of Canaanites. Some believe that the two names refer to the same people. It is held that the native population, known as the Canaanites, came originally from the same area as the Amorites. But it seems that Amorites represent a later migration. Since they had arrived more recently than the Canaanites, their culture was probably more nomadic than that of the older Canaanite culture. An ancient Sumerian poem describes the Amorites thus:
“The weapon is his companion …
Who knows no submission,
Who eats uncooked flesh,
Who has no house in his life-time,
Who does not bury his dead companion.”
The Amorites of the time of the judges probably had developed a more sedentary culture than that so vividly illustrated in this poem. They were spread all over the Near Eastern area, with Amorite kings ruling over both large and small kingdoms. The famous king of Babylonia, Hammurabi, was an Amorite. The name Amorite means “westerner” and was given this people by the Sumerians, the earliest known inhabitants of Babylonia.
35. Mount Heres. Believed to be the same as Beth-shemesh in the Shephelah.
Aijalon. A town situated about 13 mi. (20.8 km.) west-northwest of Jerusalem (see on Joshua 10:12).
Prevailed. Literally, “rested heavily.” The tribe of Dan was unable to hold its own against the native population, gradually being forced back into a restricted area. Seeing this, the Hebrews from the tribe of Ephraim, whose territory was adjacent, came to the aid of the Danites and launched aggressive attacks against the Amorites. So successful were the men of Ephraim that the Amorite and Canaanite towns made treaties of submission to them, supplying labor gangs to the Israelite towns in return for cessation of hostilities. This tributary status continued for several centuries until the towns actually became Israelite territory by the time of Solomon (1 Kings 4:9). Beth-shemesh fell into Israelite hands considerably earlier (1 Sam. 6:12).
36. Coast of the Amorites. Rather, “boundary of the Amorites.” This verse has no connection with the preceding one except that, having mentioned the Amorites, the author pauses to explain that the Amorite territory formerly extended as far south as these places, which, in the main, constitute the Edomite frontier. The southern tribes of the Israelites had conquered territory as far south as this old border.
The going up to Akrabbim. Literally, “scorpion pass.”
The rock. That is, “the cliff.” Many take this as a reference to Petra, the cliff citadel of the Edomites and Nabataeans, but it more likely refers to a landmark on the Judean side of the Arabah. The entire verse is somewhat obscure.
ELLEN G. WHITE COMMENTS
27–35 PP 543